This morning, as I was drinking a cup of coffee, a day after my 43rd birthday, I felt a convulsive scattering across the roof of my mouth.
I choked. And spit.
I looked down and saw the bug lying upside down in the light brown liquid, its legs kicking profusely.
I stared at it.
I knew what it was. And I knew where it came from.
The bugs had been worth me for as long as I could remember. They are part of my life. I don’t like it, they just are.
At first I was afraid of them. Disgusted. I could feel them crawling over the surface odd my hippocampus and through the channels of my amygdala.
I used to scratch my forehead incessantly because I could feel something crawling under my skin, beneath my skull. Luke something had burrowed into my Nadal passages at night and worked its way into my prefrontal cortex. And laid its eggs. That’s what my brother airways told me. We all heard those stories as kids, right?
I didn’t know what it was, or if it was even normal. I was a pre-teen going through a lot of weird changes. A lot of things didn’t make sense at the time.
I remember my first experience with the bugs. I was in middle school at a friend’s birthday party. Introverted, standing away from the crowd. I didn’t know why, and I know it sounds selfish, but I just didn’t feel like being there. The thought of being around groups of people was daunting to me. I forced myself to go, knowing I wasn’t going to have any fun. I just wanted to be at home, locked away in the safety of my bedroom where no one could bother…no, harm me.
So while I was at this party, I felt the itching again. More intense this time. I was worried someone would see me scratching and scrunching my nose, point it out to others, and people would ridicule me. I tried to hide it. I don’t know why I didn’t go to the bathroom before it happened, I just stood there. To my complete disgust, the bug fell from my nose onto my sleeve. I gasped and swatted at it but it just dropped and scurried away into the corner.
I don’t think anyone noticed because no one said anything and people were even coming up to me to talk.
That’s when I knew I was different than a lot of other kids at school.
That was when I knew I had something.
I couldn’t sleep at night. I could feel the bugs scurrying over the macaroni-like canals of my brain as I tossed and turned. I was exausted during the day but couldn’t sleep for beans at night.
I later learned about something called cortisol, and that it made a part of my brain larger and more active. This is what caused my disturbances – what made it impossible to sleep.
I think the bugs make cortisol in their bodies and then inject it into my brain like venom. It’s what makes me feel and act the way I do.
“It’s just a phase”, my dad said. “Probably from you staying middle school this year.”
“You’ll get better, honey”, my mom comforted.
They just didn’t know.
I didn’t know.
Eventually I came to accept that the bugs were there to stay. I somehow got used to the itching. What choice did I have?
My parents sent me to therapy with my ludicrous abs unexplainable rantings of “brain bugs”. The doctor was gentle and understanding while I explained through tears and hanging my head in shame .
“They’re always there”, I sobbed.
“I know”, he whispered. “We’re going to help you.”
I didn’t really understand what the medicine he gave me did, or what it was called. It had letters though-I think an “s” or two, an “r”, and an “i”, or something like that. I was desperate. I couldn’t live like this anymore. Especially when no one believed me.
I took the pills every day like he told me. After a few weeks, the itching began to subside. It was still there, just not as intense. Muted. I learned how to keep the bugs more-or-less contained, though they were always there . At least the medicine helped prevent them from falling out of my ears or nose. I could still feel them moving back and forth inside my skull but I was numb at the same time. I think the medicine made me feel that way – zombie-ish.
I remember that several months after I began therapy, I noticed a girl standing by herself in the cafeteria. She was pretty so I didn’t understand why she was by herself. Probably just waiting on some friends I guessed.
Her eyes dated around the room almost like she was nervous or didn’t want to be there.
And then I saw her scratch her forehead and wrinkle her nose a few times.
When I walked over to her, she sheepishly looked at me with the one eye that wasn’t hidden behind her beautiful brown hair.
“I’ve got ’em, too”, I told her, casting my gaze down to the ground.
A tear glistened down her cheek.
“Come on”, I nodded.
She smiled and eyebrow lifted.
And we turned and got into line to buy our food
“You did the best you could with what you had at the given time.
That’s all any of us can do.”
Queensryche – Best I Can [Lyrics]
Don’t worry, dear he’ll never find the gun
A child alone in daddy’s room
The gun was hidden here
No one home to catch me when I fall
A young man now in a private chair
I’ve seen the world through a bitter stare
But my dream is still alive
I’m going to be the best I can
I want to be a busy man
I want to see a change in the future
I’m gonna make the best of what I have
I want to write for a magazine
I’m gonna be the best they’ve ever seen
I know I’ll win if I give it all I can
I won’t let go
Gotta make the grade, no I won’t let go
To be the best man, the best man that I can
Back street hoop star you’ve got it good
You were the wonder of the crumbling neighborhood
Now taking bids on the next six digit plan
Showed me that my will survived
The tragedy that came into my life
Giving me hope and the new start that I have
And I won’t let go
Gotta make the grae no, I won’t let go
To be the best man, the best man that I can
Step by step I dream the plan
From my chair to walking man
This constant dream is on my mind
Chase the light I see ahead
Luminate the path I tread
I live to be the best I can
Now I’m moving forward and I’m never looking back
Straight ahead, focused on the big attack
On a roll and I’m never slowing down
I won’t be torn between
The man in the chair and the man that’s in my dream
I’m going to melt the two men into one
And I won’t let go
Gotta make the grade I set no, I won’t let it go
To be the best man,
The best man that I can
The best man that I can
The best man that I can
My girlfriend and I of three years broke up a couple weeks ago. And it’s been the hardest thing to do to remain steadfast. I didn’t want to part ways but I did because I couldn’t endure her anxiety that came at the most unexpected of times – out of the blue; out of left field. Like a brick to the back of my head. It pushed me away. It made me not want to engage. And it made me stonewall.
Maybe it was her anxiety. Maybe they were trust issue outbursts. But they always seemed like personal attacks. I always felt so small and subhuman when she was “done with me”.
I tried and I tried to continue the relationship, but it was harder and harder each time. I didn’t want the relationship to end because somehow, I found what I wanted in a partner…for the most part. Each time the outbursts happened I felt myself pushed farther away, becoming more distant. I always felt insulted and indignant. I felt subhuman, tiny, and shamed.
I know she suffered from multiple forms of abuse in her past relationships and so I always thought it was my fault. My depression. My Specter. I always accounted for her anxiety and PTSD. But looking back, I felt I didn’t do anything wrong. The shituations all felt like I was being personally attacked. I know there are always two sides to any story, but there are some times when reality “is what it is”.
I remember one time when my university sent me a text alert that school was closed because of inclement weather. Then the standard followup prerecorded phone call came to let me know the same. We were watching a movie and I picked up to listen to the message and look at the text. I remember being accosted because I didn’t show her my phone. I don’t know if that was anxiety but I felt violated and like my trust in her plummeted.
Yes, I am sad. I also feel bad that I wasn’t courageous enough to continue to be strong for her if in fact these outbursts were part of her anxiety. She was a good woman. She was what I wanted in a partner…for the most part. I just couldn’t do it when my own Specter was digging his nails into my back at the same time and with the valley I’ve been in for the past year. I need to work on myself…bad.
I’m lonely even with my family, friends, and my daughter.
What to do.
My soul has left and with it,
The Albums and the Tags.
The memories put in boxes,
And thrown out in the trash.
paint chips fall onto the ground.
A weathered waste, at the end of town.
I pack up and I leave.
So I took the plunge and published a Facebook page, “Surviving the Specter”. I want to reach more people so they know they are not alone in their struggles…that there are others out there going through the same things.
My WP blogs will be pushed out through this page as well as at my Twitter handle – #sts91414. I figured my handle would be easy to remember since it’s the first letter of each of the words in my blog’s title, as well as the date I attempted suicide.
I plan on publishing the story of the night I took my life next month, September, which is Suicide Awareness Month in the U.S. If you haven’t read it may you could stop by and give it a read and leave some thoughts.
Thank you friends, for your support through words, comments, calls, and email subscriptions, and Follows. I appreciate it more than you know.
I love you, my friend.
I wanted to make sure you were safe and doing alright.
For survivors of mental illness, they say journaling is a way to help you heal.
Here’s my effort at catharsis…
My girlfriend of nearly three years, and I, just parted ways. We’ve broken up several times before, and each time have gotten back together. This time is permanent though <<insert audience laughter here>> because of how things have progressed. Here are my thoughts through the process:
Remember why the breakup happened in the first place. There was a breaking point for me. A straw. A tipping point that once reached, ensured that things were not going to continue from that point on. It was a recurring theme that (I felt) I didn’t deserve to endure, and I couldn’t endure in the future and for the rest of the relationship. Remembering this tipping point became my first anchor point.
Make a list of anchor points. This was the first thing I did. I made a list. I know that there are going to be days when I’m sad and want the relationship back. I also realize that that is not a healthy choice, so to help me remain resolute, I wrote a list of things that would keep me steadfast. Especially on the weekend. Out of respect to her I won’t list them here, but these are largely negative things that have pushed me away over time. When you’re sad your mind wanders back to the good times you both had, or all the things you miss about that person. Keeping a list of anchor points helps me keep things in perspective. Don’t fume over the bad things and don’t forget the good things, just be real with yourself.
Disconnect from their social media world. I find that when I have a break with someone, I need to cut ALL ties. Cold turkey. I don’t want them coming up in my news feed. I don’t want to see that they’ve liked my posts. I don’t want to see their Pins or comments come up on my wall. It makes me anxious and makes my adrenaline race. It makes me start to miss those things I mentioned above. My ex blocked my texts and blocked me on Fb so she won’t even come up in searches. There are also apps that block their texts from coming in, and you can delete their numbers from your Contacts list, but I haven’t done. I’m the type of person that can’t “just be friends”. To me, that’s a crock of she-ite. Maybe we can in the future, but not at this time. It’s too painful. It’s too real. And it’s too raw to be your friend. It’s too tempting to want to go back to something that is so raw, familiar, even if it was largely toxic. To resist the temptation, I don’t put myself in the situation in the first place, and have done what I could to avoid it.
Get out. I’m an introvert and like my alone time. This can become unhealthy since I also live with major depression. I have to be careful that alone time doesn’t turn into isolation. I know that I need to step out of my comfort zone and start doing things, especially on the weekends when I don’t have my daughter. Those are the worst. Make plans – in fact make a Plan B in case Plan A falls through. All too many times I’ve found myself sitting at home crying with the lights off and the shades dropped because I didn’t have a backup plan. It just turns into a deep dark pit from there. Make sure you weekends are chock full of being around your friends. Tell them what you’re going through if you have to, but make sure there are no cracks in your time or if you’re anything like me, you’ll be sitting around and that’s when the loneliness will hit. We don’t like loneliness. It is the enemy right now. One of the things I am going to try to do is join a gym down the street and get back into shape. Being out of shape has brought me down mentally and exercising again and losing some weight will be good for both my mental and physical health. Another great way to get out is to join a Meetup singles group, though I’m not sure if this applies to readers outside the US.
Go on a date when you’re ready. Get to know other people. Spread your wings. You don’t have to jump right into another relationship (in fact you shouldn’t) but there’s nothing wrong with getting back out there and getting to know people, and building relationships. Go on dating sights and meet people. At this point it’s about survival and staying busy, not finding your soul mate.
I’m not going to go into much detail here, again, out of respect.
We both live with mental illness. Maybe a relationship where both partners survive with mental illnesses can work out. On the other hand, maybe it’s not a wise choice in the first place. I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that we both have demons we live with. I also know that we both needed LOTS of patience and empathy to date each other – we didn’t necessarily have those two things all the time. WE can’t rely on others to fix quell those demons, we have to do that on our own. The other person isn’t going to fix us. We have to be able to manage who we are within the relationship.
Trust issues. You shouldn’t have to suffer for someone’s (trust) issues from a prior relationship. If that person feels the need to go through your texts and social media IMs and you haven’t done something deserving of that (let’s be honest here), then there are trust issues that need to be resolved outside of the relationship. If a person sits outside a friend’s house of the opposite sex because they think there is a secret affair going on, then there are trust issues that need to be resolved outside the relationship. If a person calls a neighbor to see whose cars are at their partner’s apartment, then there are trust issues that need to be resolved outside the relationship. To project past trust issues onto your partner is emotional abuse and unfair.
Others. In hind sight, there are many signs that you can probably now see that should have been red flags: multiple marriages, anger issues, physical and emotional and verbal abuse…the list could go on for each of us. It’s important in our closure that we notice these things (and write them down if necessary) and try our best to avoid them in our future.
Do you have any suggestions on how best to move on, or red flags that you’ve experienced in your relationships? Would you be willing to share them with the rest of us?